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Samir Geagea

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Samir Geagea
سمير جعجع
Samir Geagea (cropped).jpg
Executive Chairman of Lebanese Forces
Assumed office
15 January 1986
Preceded by Elie Hobeika
Personal details
Born (1952-10-25) 25 October 1952 (age 65)
Beirut, Lebanon
Nationality Lebanese
Political party Lebanese Forces
Other political
affiliations
Kataeb Party (until 1992)
Spouse(s) Sethrida Tawk
Alma mater American University of Beirut
Saint Joseph University

Samir Farid Geagea (Arabic: سمير فريد جعجع‎  Lebanese pron.: [saˈmiːɾ faˈɾiːd ˈʒaʕʒaʕ], also spelled Samir Ja'ja'; born on 25 October 1952 in Ain al-Remaneh) is a Lebanese militia leader and politician. He is also the executive chairman of the Lebanese Forces, a Christian political party in Lebanon.

On 12 March 1985, Samir Geagea, Elie Hobeika and Karim Pakradouni rebelled against Abou Nader's command, ostensibly to take the Lebanese Forces back to its original path. The relationship between Geagea and Hobeika soon broke down, however, and Hobeika began secret negotiations with the Syrians. On 28 December 1985, he signed the Tripartite Accord, against the wishes of Geagea and most of the other leading Christian figures. Claiming that the Tripartite Accord gave Syria unlimited power in Lebanon, Geagea mobilized factions inside the Lebanese Forces and on 15 January 1986, attacked Hobeika's headquarters in Karantina. Hobeika surrendered and fled, first to Paris and subsequently to Damascus, Syria. He then moved to Zahlé with tens of his fighters where he prepared for an attack against East Beirut. On 27 September 1986, Hobeika's forces tried to take over the Achrafieh neighborhood of Beirut but the Lebanese Forces of Geagea's command held them back. This failed attempt by Hobeika was the last episode of internal struggles in East Beirut during Amine Gemayel's mandate. As a result, the Lebanese Forces led by Geagea were the only major force on ground.

After the departure of president Gemayel, two rival governments contended for recognition following Amine Gemayel's departure from the Presidency in September 1988, one a mainly Christian government and the other a government of Muslims and Lebanese Leftists. The Lebanese Forces initially supported the military Christian government led by Gen. Michel Aoun, the commander of the Lebanese Army. However, clashes erupted between the Lebanese Forces and the Lebanese Army under the control of Michel Aoun on 14 February 1989. These clashes were stopped, and after a meeting in Bkerké, the Lebanese Forces handed the national ports which it controlled to Aoun's government under pressure from the Lebanese National army.

Geagea initially supported Aoun's "Liberation War" against the Syrian army, but then agreed to the Taif Agreement, which was signed by the Lebanese deputies on 24 October 1989 in Saudi Arabia and demanded an immediate ceasefire. Aoun's main objection to the Taif Agreement was its vagueness as to Syrian withdrawal from the country. He rejected it vowing that he "would not sign over the country." Fierce fighting in East Beirut broke out between the two, called the "Elimination War" on 31 January 1990.

After the civil war, Geagea was offered insignificant political responsibilities. Which lead him to go into conflict with the Syrian sponsored regime. In 1994, four years after the end of the Lebanese Civil War, Geagea was tried for ordering four political assassinations, including the assassination of Lebanon's Prime Minister Rashid Karami in 1987, and the unsuccessful attempted assassination of Defense Minister Michel Murr in 1991.[1] He denied all charges, but was found guilty and sentenced to four death sentences, each of which was commuted to life in prison.[1] Geagea was imprisoned in solitary confinement below the Lebanese Ministry of Defense building in Beirut for the next 11 years.[1] He is the only Lebanese militia leader to have been imprisoned for crimes committed during the Lebanese Civil War.[1]

Following the Cedar Revolution, and the subsequent withdrawal of Syrian forces from Lebanon, a newly elected Lebanese Parliament voted to grant him amnesty on 18 July 2005.[1]

Early life and education[edit]

Geagea was born in the Ain el-Rummaneh district in Beirut on 25 October 1952 to a modest Maronite family from the town of Bsharri in northern Lebanon.[2] His father, Farid Geagea[3] was an adjutant in the Lebanese Army. He attended "Ecole Bénilde" elementary and secondary school in Furn el-Chebek, which was a free private school. With the aid of a scholarship from the Khalil Gibran association, he studied medicine at the American University of Beirut and then at Saint Joseph University. After the outbreak of civil war in 1975, Geagea interrupted his five years studies at the American University of Beirut. Although he would later continue his studies at Saint Joseph's University for two years, successfully completing his MD[citation needed], Geagea never practiced medicine. He was an active member of the right-wing Phalangist Party, which became the main Christian fighting force upon the outbreak of the Lebanese Civil War in 1975.[4] He is married to Sethrida Geagea.

War period[edit]

Geagea steadily rose through the ranks and led several operations at the request of Bachir Gemayel, then commander of the Phalangist Kataeb Regulatory Forces militia. In June 1978, following the murder of a Phalangist party leader in the North Lebanon called Joud el Bayeh in a power struggle with former president Suleiman Frangieh, Bachir Gemayel ordered Geagea and Elie Hobeika to co-lead a unit to capture the suspects who were taking cover in Frangieh's mansion in Ehden. The incident is known as Ehden massacre.[5][6] The attacking force (which somehow went past over dozens of Syrian army checkpoints) was met with resistance on the outskirts of Ehden where Geagea was hit. He was transported to Beirut and admitted to Hôtel-Dieu hospital in Achrafieh, Beirut where ironically he was doing his internship. His right hand was partially paralyzed and he never continued his education. Meanwhile, the military operation resulted in the murder of Tony Frangieh and his family. Geagea was later transported to a hospital in France.

Geagea was appointed head of the Lebanese Forces' militia northern Front in the early 1980s, where he commanded around 1,500 battle-hardened soldiers, drawn mainly from his native town of Bsharri and other towns and villages in Northern Lebanon. Geagea led his men in fierce battles against the Syrian Army in El-Koura, Qnat. From 1982 to 1983, Geagea commanded the Lebanese Forces against Walid Jumblat's Progressive Socialist Party militia, the Palestinians, and the Syrians in a battle for control of the Chouf mountains in central Lebanon.

Lebanese Forces[edit]

Samir Geagea and daughter of William Hawi – Leila

On 12 March 1985, Geagea and Elie Hobeika orchestrated an internal coup in order to end the leadership of Fouad Abou Nader in the Lebanese Forces.[citation needed] Abou Nader was considered[by whom?] to be too close to his uncle, president Amin Gemayel whose policies were not accepted by most LF leaders.[citation needed] On 15 January 1986, Geagea became head of the Lebanese Forces after overthrowing Hobeika, who was widely accused[by whom?] of treachery in the Lebanese Christian sector for agreeing to a Syrian-sponsored accord (the Tripartite Accord).[citation needed] During the following year, Geagea meticulously rebuilt the LF into an organized, well trained and equipped military force, one of the most advanced forces ever on Lebanese soil.[citation needed] He established social security and public services to fill the void that was created by the war-crippled state administration.[citation needed] He also extracted taxes from the Christian region, offered free open-heart operations and twinned Christians cities with foreign cities in Europe and America and tried to open an airport in the Halat region because the Beirut International Airport (located in the west suburb of Beirut) was under the control of the Syrian forces which made the access for Lebanese Christians almost impossible.[citation needed]

The Post-War period[edit]

On 13 October 1990, Syria ousted General Michel Aoun from the presidential palace in Baabda. Aoun was heading an interim government which filled the void in the absence of a presidential election after the end of President Amin Gemayel's term in office. With Aoun out of the picture, Geagea was now the only leader in the Christian heartland. Geagea was subsequently offered ministerial portfolios in the new Lebanese government (formed on Christmas Eve).[7]

Relation with the Kataeb party[edit]

In addition to being the LF leader, Geagea retained his seat in the Kataeb Politburo. In 1992, he ran for the Kataeb presidential election but lost to Georges Saadeh with whom the conflict grew. Later that year, Saadeh dismissed Geagea and all members of what was known as the "Rescue Committee" from the party.[8] The committee was formed by several members of the Politburo and districts leaders loyal to the LF and Geagea.

Arrest and trial[edit]

There was increased pressure by Syria on Geagea to accept the Syrian presence or face charges. Prior to his arrest, he was contacted by several sympathetic politicians and warned about the forthcoming proceedings and offered safe passage out of Lebanon. Geagea refused to leave.[9] The Syrians exploited the vulnerabilities of the amnesty law promulgated by then president Elias Hrawi for all the crimes and atrocities committed before 1990. This law also stated that any crime committed after that date will void the effect of the amnesty. On 27 February 1994, a bomb exploded in the Church of Sayyidet Al Najet (Our Lady of Deliverance) in the locality of Zouk killing 9 worshipers and injuring many. It is unknown who perpetrated the bombing and it was ultimately attributed to some shadowy groups, but Samir Geagea was accused of the crime solely for the purpose of voiding the effect of the amnesty law of which he benefited, in the same way as all political and militia leaders from other communities and regions were benefiting despite their many unspeakable crimes throughout the Lebanese civil war.[5][10] On 23 March 1994, the Lebanese government ordered the dissolution of the LF and Geagea's deputy Fouad Malek was taken into custody.[11] Geagea himself was arrested on 21 April 1994, on charges of ordering the church bombing, of attempting to undermine government authority by "maintaining a militia in the guise of a political party", of instigating acts of violence, and of committing assassinations during the Lebanese Civil War. He was accused of the assassinations of former prime minister Rashid Karami,[12] National Liberal Party leader Dany Chamoun and his family, and former LF member Elias Al Zayek. He was also accused of attempting to kill Minister Michel Murr. He was acquitted in the church case but given four life sentences in the other cases. Amnesty International criticized Samir Geagea's trial and conviction, citing that it was politically motivated and unjust.[9][13][14]

Imprisonment[edit]

Geagea was incarcerated for 11 years in a small windowless solitary cell in the third basement level of the Lebanese Ministry of Defense in Yarze.[15] His health status was jeopardized and he lost weight dramatically due to the unsanitary condition of the ill lit and poorly ventilated prison cell.[16] He was deprived of access to media and the outside world and was only allowed to see his wife and close relatives. All of Geagea's conversations were monitored and he was barred from talking politics with anyone.[17]

For the duration of his incarceration, Geagea maintained that he meditated and reviewed his actions during the war to determine if what he did was right. He busied himself with reading literature, Hindu philosophy, the Qur'an, Christian theology and mysticism namely the works of Jesuit priest Teilhard de Chardin.[5][17][18]

Release[edit]

Leaders of the Cedar Revolution considered the Geagea trials and sentences to be unjust, politically motivated, and orchestrated by the vassal government that ruled Lebanon during the Syrian occupation to oust Geagea from the political scene and dismantle the Lebanese Forces.[19] When supporters of the Cedar Revolution won the majority in the 2005 parliamentary elections, they lobbied for an amnesty law to free Geagea from his disputed sentences.[19]

The Lebanese Parliament passed an amnesty bill on 18 July 2005 to free Samir Geagea. Given the sectarian balance of Lebanon, three dozens of Islamist criminals were released with Geagea. The bill was subsequently signed by the then president Émile Lahoud.[1] Geagea was released from prison on 26 July 2005 and left Lebanon for medical care.[20] He returned to Lebanon on 25 October (his birthday), and lived in the Cedars region, his ancestral home, in northern Lebanon until 11 December 2006, after which he moved to a hotel in Bzoummar in Keserwan. On 30 June 2007, he moved to a new residence in Maarab, Keserwan.

Current political activity[edit]

On the Lebanese political scene, Geagea and the LF are considered to be the main Christian component of the 14 March Alliance.[21]

In September 2008, Geagea pronounced in front of thousands of rallying supporters in Jounieh a historical apology.[17] The apology read:

I fully apologize for all the mistakes that we committed when we were carrying out our national duties during past civil war years,... I ask God to forgive, and so I ask the people whom we hurt in the past.[22]

Internationally, Geagea tried to renew his relations with influential countries such as the United States and France. On 19 March 2007, he met then French president Jacques Chirac in the Élysée Palace.[23] In March 2008, he held talks in the USA with officials at the White House, including then Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, then NSA Stephen Hadley and then chairman of the Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia Gary Ackerman.[24]

Assassination attempt[edit]

On 4 April 2012, at 11:30-11:33 am, gunshots were heard in Geagea's Ma'arab Complex. Geagea's security forces scouted the area, and found shells belonging to a 12.7 caliber sniper rifle, a high-tech rifle produced only by the United States and/or Russia, not available in the Lebanese infantries, the Lebanese Armed Forces or the black market, suggesting that the gun could only be obtained by one powerful party. Speculators claim the perpetrators to be pro-Syrian forces, most likely Hezbollah. Account of the story, as described in the press conference immediately following the attempt, claim Geagea to have been walking outside in the garden surrounding his mansion. Geagea bent over to pick up a flower, while bent over, Geagea heard gunshots, and immediately lay low on the ground, while his security forces took care of the situation. At the location where the shot would have killed him, two bullets had pierced through the wall. They claim the shooters to have been at least a kilometer away, stationed west of the residence (but the body guards were unable to see them due to the thick trees), and the operation to have been planned for months to silence Geagea, the only strong vocal critic against the Syrian/Iranian forces and the incumbent government. The Lebanese security forces have uncovered that a nine-member assassination team divided into three groups was involved in the killing attempt; two of the three groups were in charge of firing on Geagea.[25]

Candidacy to Presidency[edit]

In 2014, Samir Geagea declared his candidacy for the Lebanese Presidential elections to succeed President Michel Suleiman whose 6-year term was to end on 25 May 2014. Geagea enjoys the comprehensive political backing of the March 14 Alliance for the presidency.[26]

In 2016, Geagea backed his longtime rival Michel Aoun for presidency.[27]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f Amnesty for Lebanese ex-warlord, BBC News, 18 July 2005. Retrieved on 7 July 2009.
  2. ^ Samir Geagea - Biography
  3. ^ The Daily Star, Lebanon: Geagea's father passes away
  4. ^ Abraham, Antoine (1996). The Lebanon war. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 195. ISBN 978-0-275-95389-8. 
  5. ^ a b c Azzam, Roger (2005). Liban, l'instruction d'un crime: 30 ans de guerre. Editions Cheminements. p. 765. ISBN 978-2-84478-368-4. 
  6. ^ Johnson, Michael (2001). All honorable men: the social origins of war in Lebanon. I.B.Tauris. p. 298. ISBN 978-1-86064-715-4. 
  7. ^ Lebanon's Cabinet Named, Then Boycotted. The New York Times, 25 December 1990. Retrieved on 28 February 2008.
  8. ^ Split Threatens Lebanon's Biggest Christian Party. The New York Times, 16 January 1993. Retrieved on 28 February 2008.
  9. ^ a b Ziad K. Abdel Nour. "Dossier: Samir Geagea Leader of the Lebanese Forces (LF) movement". Middle East Intelligence Bulletin. Archived from the original (.html) on 29 May 2004. Retrieved 5 July 2008. 
  10. ^ Blast in Lebanon Church Kills 9 and Injures 60, The New York Times, 28 February 1994. Retrieved on 27 March 2008.
  11. ^ Lebanon Detains Christian in Church Blast, The New York Times, 24 March 1994. Retrieved on 27 March 2008.
  12. ^ Alagha, Joseph (Winter 2005). "Hizballah after the Syrian Withdrawal". Middle East Report. 237: 34–39. doi:10.2307/30042473. JSTOR 30042473. 
  13. ^ "Lebanese Ex-Warlord Sentenced in Rival's Slaying : Mideast: Christian is the first militia chief convicted of civil war crimes. Many received amnesty. Eleven associates are also sentenced.", Los Angeles Times, 25 June 1995. Retrieved on 14 October 2016.
  14. ^ Amnesty International. "Annual Report on Lebanon (1996)". Canadian Lebanese Human Rights Federation. Retrieved 22 June 2009. 
  15. ^ UN Commission on Human Rights – Torture – Special Rapporteur's Report. United Nations Economic and Social Council, 12 January 1995. Retrieved on 22 February 2008.
  16. ^ U.S. Department of State (March 1996). Lebanon Human Rights Practices, 1995. U.S. Department of State. Retrieved 11 July 2009. 
  17. ^ a b c Daragahi, Borzou (15 December 2008). "In Lebanon, rivals unconvinced by warlord's apology". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 11 July 2009. 
  18. ^ http://articles.latimes.com/2008/dec/15/world/fg-warlord15
  19. ^ a b Radio Sawt Beirut International. "Lebanese Political Parties- Lebanese Forces". Archived from the original (SawtBeirut) on 23 January 2009. Retrieved 7 July 2009. 
  20. ^ Lebanese ex-warlord is released, BBC News, 26 July 2005. Retrieved on 27 July 2007.
  21. ^ Carter, Terry; Lara Dunston; Amelia Thomas (2008). Syria and Lebanon (3 ed.). Lonely Planet. p. 436. ISBN 978-1-74104-609-0. 
  22. ^ Abdallah, Hussein (22 August 2008). "Geagea apologizes for LF's wartime 'mistakes'". The Daily Star. Retrieved 11 July 2009. 
  23. ^ Geagea meets Chirac (in Arabic). As-Safir Newspaper, 20 March 2007. Retrieved on 26 February 2008.
  24. ^ Geagea from Washington: We Focused on Protection of Lebanon. Naharnet Newsdesk, 12 March 2008. Retrieved on 30 May 2008.
  25. ^ "Accounts of Samir Geagea's Assassination Attempt". Naharnet. 4 April 2012. Retrieved 4 April 2012. 
  26. ^ Gulf News: Is Samir Geagea the next president of Lebanon?
  27. ^ Perry, Tom (18 January 2016). "Geagea reshapes Lebanese politics, backs rival Aoun". Reuters. Retrieved 28 June 2018. 

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